Damian Mc Carthy (director)
03 June 2021 (released)
29 May 2021
Evil toys or evil looking toys have been one of the creepier elements of the horror genre from the maniacal Toy Master series to the demonic Annabelle from the Conjuring series. There’s the something about the perversion of the innocence of childhood which these things symbolise. While the hideous drumming bunny in Caveat is unlikely to get a series of its own it is one of the most unsettling images I have seen for a good while.
Which suits Caveat down to the ground which has a grimy approach very much in the frame of Possum and shares some of the psychological elements that does. Isaac (Jonathan French) has been asked by his landlord Barrett (Ben Caplan) to look after his Niece Olga (Leila Sykes) who is living in isolation on an island as her mother is missing. Initially reluctant he actually doesn’t have much of a choice, plus he’s offered €200 a day!
It’s an odd assignment as once in the house because of Olga’s delicate mental condition he has wear a harness with bells that severely restricts his movement around the house, even to the toilet, and on no account is he to go into Olga’s room.
The house is dilapidated close to falling down and Isaac hates it being creeped out by a picture in his room that keeps falling off. There’s also the problem that there is something nagging away at him which he can’t quite put his finger on as he’s suffering from amnesia.
Slowly he builds a wary understanding with Olga, staid conversation and flashbacks fill in a backstory of violence and mental illness that has beset the family. As the story develops Barrett, Isaac and Olga’s histories come together and a cat and mouse stalk around the house develops, with Olga armed with a crossbow.
Made pretty much in one location and for the most part internal Caveat is a very good chiller drawing on the psychological and phantasmagorical. The decaying interiors creak as the protagonists shift about the house with Isaac trying to see it out with Olga predatory in the later stages. Boosted by a terrific sound design, writer director Damian McCarthy makes the best use of the restricted area creating tension out the musty atmosphere.
For the most part it’s just Isaac and Olga in the house with flashbacks fleshing out the backstory only later on bringing in others. The dank claustrophobia enhances the unexplained things that go on, compounding Isaac’s fright and confusion which is very well brought played by French.
The Olga role is trickier with a character that has clear mental health issues at the same time possessing a tuned, cunning mind. Sykes gets under the skin of Olga so that she is extremely unsettling though there’s a coherence in thought and action that prevents the character going over the top.
Caveat is streaming on Shudder from 3 June.